MARK CLATTENBURG has today been dramatically cleared by the FA of racially abusing John Obi Mikel.
Chelsea accused the referee of calling Mikel a “monkey” during their stormy 3-2 defeat to Manchester United last month.
But Clattenburg is in the clear after football bosses found the North-East whistler had no case to answer.
And in a sensational twist, Mikel is now facing an FA charge of his own for abusing the match officials at Stamford Bridge.
Clattenburg, 37, broke his silence to speak of his relief after the case was dropped this afternoon.
He said: “To know you were innocent of something but that there was the opportunity for it to wreck your career was truly frightening.
“Racism has no place in football and this experience should not discourage those to speak out if they genuinely believe they are a victim of abuse.
“However, there are processes that should be adhered in order that any investigation can be carried out in a manner that is fair for all parties involved.
“I know first-hand the ramifications of allegations of this nature being placed into the public domain ahead of a formal process and investigation.“I hope no referee has to go through this in the future.”
The Blues’ case revolved around a statement from midfielder Ramires, who claimed to hear the racial slur.
Crucially, Mikel did not hear the incident.
And an FA statement said: “Having considered all of the available evidence it was the opinion of David Waters QC, independent counsel, that the evidence of Ramires was not supported by any other evidence.
“Moreover it was contradicted by other witnesses and does not cross the evidential threshold required to bring a charge against Mark Clattenburg.
“Having considered Counsel’s opinion, and in view of all the circumstances of the case, the FA does not believe that there is a case for Mr Clattenburg to answer.”
Clattenburg had sent off two Chelsea players at the Bridge and allowed a controversial Javier Hernandez winner to stand.
Conspiracy theorists accused the Blues of seeking revenge over the ref.
But the FA have today quashed those claims.
They added: “Equally the FA is satisfied that the allegation against Mark Clattenburg by Ramires was made in good faith.
“It is entirely possible for a witness to be genuinely mistaken and convincing in his belief.
“The FA receives and investigates numerous allegations of misconduct over the course of a season.
“All allegations are properly investigated. It is not uncommon for investigations to lead to no disciplinary charge being brought.”
Mikel is facing a fresh probe for losing his rag at the final whistle. He does not deny the claims but has tonight requested a personal hearing.
The FA added: “It is alleged that in or around the Match Officials’ changing room at the end of the fixture, Mikel used threatening and/or abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour.
“The player has until Friday 30 November 2012 to respond to the charge.”
A Blues spokesman said: “Chelsea Football Club accepts the Football Association’s decision regarding Mark Clattenburg and welcomes the fact that the FA recognises the club and players were correct in reporting the matter.”